We all know that the web experience has changed a great deal in the past ten years. Users are more sophisticated and expect to have their needs met. Competitors who may have inferior services can easily have a superior web site. Here are some of the major shifts - and what you can do to make sure your site measures up.
Old rule: The best designed sites dominate the market. New rule: A pretty site that isn't seen by anybody isn't worth a dime. Once upon a time, before Google was a verb, a good design was all you had to consider. But for years this has not been true. And a website that has great traffic and activity but is poorly designed is bound to be a disappointment. In the current business environment, a comprehensive web solution is critical.
Old rule: People will sift through your site - maybe even look at a site map - to find what they want. New rule: Serve it up right - or users will go to your competitors. What do your users want? Are they going to order something, join your site, download a pdf, subscribe to a newsletter, or contact you directly? Make it easy for users to do what you want them to do.
Old rule: We should have a website, because everyone has a website. New rule: We should have a website because it will help us reach our goals. First focus on strategy - do you have an audience and objective for your website? Do you have a list of people who will benefit from your website? How can your website further your marketing plan objectives – sales leads, advertising base, branding?
Old rule: We're cutting edge because we have a web site. New rule: Your website needs to appeal to your target market, not your ego. Naturally website owners pick designs they think are pretty and speak to them. Unfortunately, audience appeal can be overlooked. If your audience is high-powered executives for consulting and training, your site can't look amateur and outdated. You have to meet the audience where they are, and where they want to be. They need to feel like associating with your company will improve them somehow. You need to reflect a high level of sophistication to attract confidence.
Old rule: People will come looking for us online. New rule: You've got to wave a flag to show them the way. Consider how you are promoting your site. Make sure your URL is on all sales collateral, letterhead, etc. - on everything you have. Now decide what promotion avenue to engage. This frequently changes over time, but at least have a list – Pay-Per-Click, Client Letters, Local Advertising, Billboards, etc. This again should play into your entire marketing plan. I will never know why there are still people who are trying to keep their websites quiet. In my experience, I have never seen anonymity work to anyone's advantage.
Old rule: Look how many hits we are getting! New rule: Look closer. Website technology today is full of analytics - ways to measure visitors, entry pages, repeat visitors, new visitors, bounce rates, and a whole bunch of other things that can make your head spin. The key is to find the measurements that make sense for you. This can vary - we had a scenario where we got a rush of traffic from a few key words that had little to do with our business. And as encouraging as the increased traffic was, it certainly did not translate to any of our business goals. Identify the measurements that can tell you what you need to know - then measure, rinse and repeat.
Old rule: Anyone can build a web site. New rule: Anyone can still build a web site, but comprehensive web plans can be tricky.